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Is Crepeau Better Than Other Options?

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Ten matches into 2019 we take a look at the numbers and see whether Crepeau has been better than previous Vancouver Whitecaps keepers.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

We are ten games into the 2019 MLS season and the Vancouver Whitecap have only two victories. While the start is not what anyone wanted, the defense is certainly not the problem.

The central defensive pairing of Doneil Henry and Erik Godoy has been superb. Godoy seems to rarely be out of position, while Henry has taken his game to a level of consistency that, honestly, I did not see coming. If the Caps were to go with a two-CB defense, I was always expecting it to be Godoy and Jasser Khmiri. Currently, I see no reason to rush Khmiri in as Henry has shown himself to be quite capable. Hopefully the suspected transition to a three-CB formation will work out well as that could be a formidable threesome. However, this article is not about the center backs. This is about the man between the goal posts, so let’s switch our focus here.

Two years ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps relied on their stout Dane David Ousted. However, because of assumed contract disagreements, Carl Robinson decided to bring in the much cheaper Stefan Marinovic. In 2018, the Vancouver Whitecaps had one of the worst defenses in Major League Soccer. To be fair, I don’t attribute the poor defense to the change in goal keeper. It was starting to decrease in 2017, and I don’t think Marinovic was a poor keeper. I probably felt he was a better keeper than he was, but certainly not poor.

The question that I want to focus on is how good has Crepeau been this season. Obviously, this is a difficult question to answer as there are many factors that come into play. Just look at how excellent Ousted’s 2016 (and 2015) was and compare that to each of his seasons after. YIKES! The change in manager, and corresponding philosophy, certainly plays a major factor. However, the only non-subjective (is it really?) method to answering this question is to look at the numbers.

Vancouver Whitecaps Keeper Comparison (Past and Present)

Player Year Ranking Minutes Saves GA SOG Header % Average Shot Distance xGA GA-xGA Goals Against Average Save Percentage PKs Clean Sheets
Player Year Ranking Minutes Saves GA SOG Header % Average Shot Distance xGA GA-xGA Goals Against Average Save Percentage PKs Clean Sheets
David Ousted 2016 23rd (out of 43) 3148 105 52 157 0.15 17.5 52.00 0.00 1.58 66.30 6/8 ?
David Ousted 2017 42nd (out of 48) 2578 94 42 136 0.10 19.6 38.44 3.56 1.39 68.20 4/4 ?
Stefan Marinovic 2018 46th (out of 47) 2341 65 44 109 0.15 16.8 38.10 5.90 1.88 58.00 7/9 ?
Maxime Crepeau 2019 13th (out of 36) 781 23 11 34 0.15 18.9 11.35 -0.35 1.44 63.20 6/6 2
Zac MacMath 2019 18th (out of 36) 100 2 1 3 0.33 11.5 1.25 -0.25 1.00 50.00 0/0 0
Spencer Richey 2019 22nd (out of 36) 676 20 9 29 0.07 17.0 8.79 0.21 1.38 68.40 1/1 2
David Ousted 2019 25th (out of 36) 867 18 13 31 0.32 14.0 11.65 1.35 1.30 60.50 1/2 2
Brian Rowe 2019 35th (out of 36) 881 30 14 44 0.18 19.8 11.73 2.27 1.60 68.50 0/0 2

American Soccer Analysis (ASA) is a GREAT resource for all stats nerds. We use it all the time and I highly encourage you have a look when you get a chance. I used their calculation of expected goals for primary keeper of the Whitecaps in 2016 and 2017 (Ousted), 2018 (Marinovic), and 2019 (Crepeau). I also included the 2019 numbers for the Whitecaps backup (MacMath) and the keepers, still in MLS, that Crepeau replaced in Vancouver. I noted their rank in expected goals. Header % identifies how many of the keeper’s shots against came from headers (scored at a lower rate than from the foot). Distance is average distance from the goal for shots faced. GA-xGA is simply how the keeper’s actual goal total matches what would be expected. You can read ASA’s explanation for Expected Goals.

I also inserted stats from the MLS website about goals against average, save percentage, and penalty kicks. I calculated clean sheets manually and I was too lazy to look it up for past seasons.

When it comes to goals minus expected goals, Maxime Crepeau is tops of previous options, in 2019. Meanwhile, the other ‘options’ are down near the bottom of the rankings, with Rowe being second-to-last. Not really surprised with that one.

Despite being the highest in GA-xGA, Richey and Rowe have a better save percentage than Crepeau. Mind you, more than HALF of the goals scored against Crepeau have been through penalty kick. Yes, that is correct. He has allowed 11 goals, but SIX! have come from the penalty spot. Take those out and his numbers are much better.

Comparing to previous seasons, we see that from 2016 to 2018, the Vancouver Whitecaps goal keeping continued a downward trajectory, hitting their GA-xGA on the button in 2016, then falling to 3.56 over in 2017, followed by 5.90 over in 2018. Again, this is probably not too surprising to all of you.

One factor that has assisted Crepeau this season is that he is facing shots from further away than his predecessors. This might surprise some people as there was a perception that the Caps were letting teams shoot from distance and then gathering the rebounds. However, in 2018, Marinovic’s average distance for shots was 16.8 while Ousted’s (2016) was 17.5. This season, Crepeau is sitting at a very comfortable 18.9. This can be partly attributed to the change in playing style, but also the play of Henry and Godoy. Henry currently sits 5th in clearances per game, while Godoy is 9th. Henry is also 4th in interceptions, averaging 2.5 per match. Mind you, Godoy and Henry are 19th and 27th respectively in blocks per game, so they are not getting in the way of too many shots.

What really matters though is whether Crepeau has won some games for the Caps. In Ousted’s ‘good’ years, he was notorious for stealing points that Vancouver probably did not deserve to receive. So far this season, there have certainly been some excellent saves. In their most recent match, Crepeau made a fantastic hand save on Kellyn Acosta.

In the club’s other victory this season, against LAFC, he made a critical save from close range.

It didn’t result in a victory, but he had a great hand save against Chicago Fire.

There were question marks coming into this season as to whether Crepeau or MacMath would start. Then, when it was Crepeau, whether he could translate his USL success to MLS. Many of us were sad to see Richey go and were a bit concerned about the keeper position. However, after ten games Crepeau has shown himself to be a very capable keeper and has earned his starting position with strong hands and fantastic saves. Now if only the Caps could help him out by not giving up so many penalty kicks!

What are your thoughts on Crepeau’s start as a Whitecaps? Satisfied with what you see? Does the future hold positives or negatives for him and the club?